After her bestselling debut The American Heiress, Daisy Goodwin returns with another captivating historical novel, this one the dramatic story of a nineteenth century love triangle entangling "Sisi" (more properly, "Elizabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary"); a handsome, but impoverished British horseman; and a resourceful young heiress. In The Fortune Hunter, all three emerge as real people, perhaps the enigmatic real-life wife of Franz Joseph I most of all.
The Fortune Hunterby Daisy Goodwin
Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as Sisi, is the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe. Famously beautiful, as captured in a portrait with diamond stars in her hair, she is unfulfilled in her marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. Sisi has spent years evading the stifling formality of royal life on her private train or yacht or, whenever she can, on
Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as Sisi, is the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe. Famously beautiful, as captured in a portrait with diamond stars in her hair, she is unfulfilled in her marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. Sisi has spent years evading the stifling formality of royal life on her private train or yacht or, whenever she can, on the back of a horse.
Captain Bay Middleton is dashing, young, and the finest horseman in England. He is also impoverished, with no hope of buying the horse needed to win the Grand National—until he meets Charlotte Baird. A clever, plainspoken heiress whose money gives her a choice among suitors, Charlotte falls in love with Bay, the first man to really notice her, for his vulnerability as well as his glamour. When Sisi joins the legendary hunt organized by Earl Spencer in England, Bay is asked to guide her on the treacherous course. Their shared passion for riding leads to an infatuation that jeopardizes the growing bond between Bay and Charlotte, and threatens all of their futures.
The Fortune Hunter, a brilliant new novel by Daisy Goodwin, is a lush, irresistible story of the public lives and private longings of grand historical figures.
Goodwin, who charged onto the course with The American Heiress, a New York Times best seller with 300,000 books in print, returns with a second novel featuring a dramatic love triangle. Restless in her marriage and her royal duties, the Empress Elizabeth of Austria lives to ride. So does Capt. Bay Middleton, charming but too poor to buy a horse of the quality to win the Grand National. He's lucky to meet independent-minded heiress Charlotte Baird, but their budding relationship is disrupted when Bay is asked to guide the empress on the course set for a hunt organized by Earl Spencer in England. With a national laydown on July 29.
Goodwin’s second novel (after The American Heiress) travels the difficult protocols of Victorian-era fox hunting, as well as the even more complicated protocols of love and marriage in the era, especially for an intelligent young woman with a fortune. England, 1875: Charlotte Baird is the eligible heiress to “the Lennox Fortune.” Her lovely, reckless mother was her father’s second wife, and she died young in a hunting accident, leaving her fortune to Charlotte. Charlotte’s brother, Fred, is engaged to Augusta Crewe, an ambitious woman from a good family who’d rather settle for Fred than stay unmarried (and she covets the Lennox diamonds). Charlotte is more interested in photography—especially composing unusual portraits and developing the plates and prints herself. When Bay Middleton, an expert horseman and friend of Fred, arrives for hunting season at Melton, Augusta’s family home, he and Charlotte form an unlikely alliance that turns into love. Fred and Augusta believe Charlotte can do better. Further confusing matters is the arrival of the Empress of Austria, who comes to a nearby estate and appoints Bay as her “pilot” for the hunts; she later decides that Bay can provide her happiness beyond horseback. Charlotte and Bay are faced with listening to their hearts, or falling victim to the machinations and customs surrounding them. Goodwin manages to take the reader deep inside the characters’ longings and flaws in a way that makes the reader root for them. An enchanting, beautifully written page-turner. First printing of 150,000 copies. (July)
“Public Service Announcement. . . this gorgeous novel is the perfect storm of escapism, suspense, romance and superb historical research.” The Times, UK
“Finely drawn characters and intriguing plot lines. . . Although readers who enjoyed The American Heiress will be first in line to savor Goodwin's new novel, they will be followed quickly by others who appreciate engaging and thoughtful historical fiction.” Library Journal, starred review
“Goodwin manages to take the reader deep inside the characters' longings and flaws in a way that makes the reader root for them. An enchanting, beautifully written page-turner.” Publishers Weekly
“Goodwin's second novel is a luxurious indulgences....Goodwin writes with effortless grace, and her dialogue's subtle wit is delightful. Each of her three protagonists commands attention and sympathy, which heightens the story's poignancy. Charlotte's levelheaded personality remains unaffected by her wealth or her relatives' dependence on it, and Bay is movingly torn between duty and his sense of self-worth. Finally, despite her outlandish regimen for maintaining her complexion and ankle-length chestnut tresses, Elizabeth is never less than beguiling.” Booklist
“With its witty dialogue, intriguing research and cameo appearances by Queen Victoria and other royals, Goodwin's latest is a pleasurable excursion into Downton-land complete with high-society weddings, lavish balls and an exciting, all-or-nothing horse-racing finale.” Kirkus Reviews
“A sumptuous, scrumptious confection, with country houses, Austrian Empresses and Victorian glamour galore.” Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces
“Daisy Goodwin has triumphed again. In The Fortune Hunter she weaves a rich and textured tale of desire and ambition. Sizzling with energy and passion on every page, Goodwin's characters compel the reader to fall in love with them.” Amanda Foreman, author of the New York Times bestsellers Georgiana and A World on Fire
“Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms will find an instant tonic in Goodwin's deliciously evocative novel.” Allison Pearson, author of New York Times bestseller I Don't Know How She Does It, on THE AMERICAN HEIRESS
“Goodwin...writes deliciously.” Janet Maslin on THE AMERICAN HEIRESS, The New York Times
“Top-notch writing brings to life the world of wealth on both sides of the Atlantic. This debut's strong character development and sense of place will please fans of historical romance, including book club members.” Library Journal, starred review on THE AMERICAN HEIRESS
“A shrewd, spirited historical romance…Superior entertainment.” Kirkus Reviews (starred) on THE AMERICAN HEIRESS
The love triangle created by an heiress, an empress and an “Adonis on horseback” is delightfully dissected in the second historical romance (The American Heiress, 2011) from a best-selling British novelist.Described variously as shallow, unsuitable, a man with a past but without character, cavalry officer Capt. Bay Middleton is hardly ideal fiance material for a wealthy underage debutante in Victorian England. But he’s the one man to have captured the heart of Charlotte Baird, the shrewd, 20-year-old heir to the Lennox fortune who accepts his proposal after a handful of kisses and despite his bad reputation and inferior social position. Bay’s feelings for Charlotte are true—and unmercenary—but the captain also knows himself to be “unsteady,” which is why he asks Charlotte to elope with him instantly rather than wait a few months until she can marry without her brother’s approval. Charlotte’s refusal to behave improperly leaves Bay open to temptation, which arrives in the epic form of “the modern Helen of Troy,” Empress Elizabeth of Austria, holidaying incognito in England to escape the boredom of life at the Viennese court. Elizabeth, known as Sisi, is a spectacular (if aging) beauty with ankle-length hair whose fearless appetite for fox hunting is matched only by Bay’s. Forced to act as Sisi’s guide while hunting, Bay soon finds himself her lover too, a “secret” which sends ripples of gossip through the upper end of English society. With its witty dialogue, intriguing research and cameo appearances by Queen Victoria and other royals, Goodwin’s latest is a pleasurable excursion intoDownton-land complete with high-society weddings, lavish balls and an exciting, all-or-nothing horse-racing finale.Goodwin has hit on a winning formula—a sophisticated blend of money, class, history, misunderstandings among lovers, spirited women, and unpredictable but irresistible men—and is sticking with it.
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The Fortune Hunter
By Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Daisy Goodwin Productions
All rights reserved.
The Royal Menagerie
Was Queen Victoria a kitten or a codfish? Charlotte hesitated. The monarch's chinless face did look remarkably similar to the glassy stare of the fish, but that would mean making the late Prince Consort a kitten, as that was the only animal she had left. It was hard to think of Prince Albert as feline, but now that she had superimposed the image of the fish onto his wife's face, it was undoubtable that the queen made the most magnificent kind of cod. She stepped back for a moment and looked at the overall composition, now that she had replaced each royal face with an animal head. The Prince of Wales was a satisfactory basset hound and Charlotte felt that she had done justice to Princess Alice's mournful demeanour by turning her into a calf. She dipped her brush into the pot of Indian ink at her side and began to shade around her work, blending the edges of the animal heads into the rest of the photograph. Later, depending on what time she could persuade Fred to bring her home from the ball, she would photograph her creation.
She sighed and stretched her folded fingers over her head. The sun had sunk beneath the rows of white stucco townhouses, throwing a warm glow into the room.
Charlotte would have her Royal Menagerie. She thought she would put it on the back wall of the drawing room at Kevill. Properly framed, it would look to the casual observer like any other family portrait; only the people who really looked would see that she had turned the Royal Family into a frock-coated and crinolined 300. It was possible that some of the starchier guests might be a little shocked, but as close observation of anything besides the lace on a visitor's gown seldom took place in the drawing room at Kevill, Charlotte did not feel she had much to worry about. The faint possibility of discovery might be enough to get her through those interminable afternoons spent at home entertaining lady callers. Charlotte hoped that the Bishop's wife, in particular, would look over her long, perpetually dripping nose and be so offended that she never called again.
The thought of the Bishop's wife and the way that she always referred to her as a 'poor motherless girl' was enough to make Charlotte's hand slip, and a drop of Indian ink fell onto one of the ivory silk flounces of her skirt. It was a very small drop of ink, but the silk was so absorbent that it quickly flowered into an unmistakeable stain. Charlotte was annoyed at her carelessness. The ink spot was barely visible, but she knew that her aunt would spot it immediately and would make it into a tragedy of epic proportions. 'What a calamity!' she would exclaim, the lace ribbons on her widow's cap fluttering. 'Your beautiful dress ruined and on the night of the Spencer ball too!' Charlotte's aunt Adelaide liked nothing better than a minor domestic mishap that she could turn into a drama worthy of Sophocles. She would feel it her duty to point out the blemish to everyone they met, and invite them to comment on the tragic twist of fate that had ruined her niece's exquisite dress. Charlotte was dreading the evening's entertainments quite enough without the added humiliation of her aunt's histrionics.
She thought for a moment, and then picked up her watercolour box. Perhaps there was some China White left. She took a clean brush, licked it thoroughly and started to paint over the stain. It wasn't perfect, but it covered the worst of it, and with any luck she might get through the evening without her aunt noticing. She was just giving it another coat when there was a perfunctory knock on the door and her brother Fred walked in wearing his dress uniform.
'Are you ready yet, Mitten? Aunt Adelaide is fretting about the horses and I want to be at the Opera early.'
He saw what she was doing and stopped. 'Why are you painting your dress?' He smirked. 'Is that the latest fashion, hand-decorating your ball gown?'
'Well, if it was the latest fashion, as you never stop pointing out to me, I would be the last one to know. I have spilt some ink on my dress and I am concealing it with paint.' Charlotte pointed at the blemish with her finger. 'There! Good as new.'
'But what on earth were you doing messing about with ink in a white ball gown? I thought girls had better things to do before a ball, like getting their hair arranged or choosing which jewels to wear.'
'If you look carefully, Fred, you will see that my hair has been arranged, and as for jewels, Aunt Adelaide thinks that diamonds are unsuitable for debutantes and so she is wearing Mamma's necklace. I thought I would occupy my time usefully while I waited for you all to get ready.'
Fred glanced over at the work table where the Royal Menagerie lay. He went over to have a closer look, and shook his head.
'You really are a rum one, Mitten.'
'Do you like it?'
'Like it! Of course I don't like it. It's peculiar, that's what it is. Why don't you have any normal accomplishments? Singin', piano playing, needlework, that sort of thing. It's deuced odd for a girl of twenty to be squirrellin' around with cameras and chemicals all the time. You need to be careful that you don't get a reputation. Augusta is quite concerned about you. She says that after we are married, her first task will be to launch you properly. She thinks that with the right approach, you could be quite a success.'
Charlotte smiled. 'How very kind of her.'
Fred looked at her suspiciously, his blue eyes bulging as they always did when he was cross. 'Augusta will be a real advantage to you. She says that making the right sort of marriage is like pilotin' a ship into harbour. It needs a steady hand at the tiller.'
Charlotte thought, but did not say, that despite Lady Augusta Crewe's navigational skills, it had taken her four London seasons to land a proposal of marriage. She decided to change the subject.
'You look very handsome tonight, Fred. Augusta will be proud of you.'
Diverted, Fred pushed his chest out and brushed his hand down the gold braid on his jacket.
'Went to Bay Middleton's tailor. He swears by him, won't go anywhere else.'
'Bay Middleton is clearly very discerning.'
'Best dressed officer in the Guards. It's all about the cut. Had to have three fittings for this.'
'Only three fittings! I must have had ten at least for this frock, and I think your uniform fits you rather better and is altogether more flattering.'
'Nothing wrong with your dress, or at least there wasn't before you started coverin' it with ink.' He put his hand on her shoulder. 'When Augusta and I are married she will advise you. Daresay you could learn something from her. Always very nicely turned out, Augusta.'
Charlotte thought that she had heard enough about the superiority of Augusta Crewe to last a lifetime. Even if her future sister-in-law had been charming and generous, she might have tired of Fred constantly invoking her name, but as Charlotte found her affected and calculating, her presence in every conversation between brother and sister was a scalding irritation.
There was a cough from the doorway. Penge, Aunt Adelaide's butler, looked at them reproachfully.
'Her ladyship has asked to me to remind you that the carriage was ordered fifteen minutes ago.'
Fred became officious. 'Come along, Mitten, nothing you can do about the dress now. Captain Hartopp's not goin' to notice.' He was halfway down the curving staircase before he turned back to look at her. 'And you needn't worry about partners tonight. I know Hartopp will claim the first two, and Augusta has promised to find you some suitable young men.'
Charlotte was silent but thought that she would like nothing more than to dance with an unsuitable young man. Despite Fred's solicitude, she was not at all worried about finding partners: although she had only been to a handful of balls, her dance card was always full. Suitable young men and the odd unsuitable one had quickly learnt that although Charlotte was not perhaps the most striking looking girl in the room, she was undoubtedly one of the richest, as the sole heiress to the Lennox fortune, which would be hers when she was twenty-five. The money had not meant much to her growing up in the Borders, but since she had come to London, Charlotte had often heard the phrase 'the Lennox heiress' muttered in conversation or seen it mouthed silently by one new acquaintance to another. She had noticed too that the mutterings and the mouthings made Fred anxious. The money was hers alone – her mother, the original Lennox heiress, had been their late father's second wife – but Fred was as proprietorial about her fortune as if it were his to bestow. Under the terms of her father's will, she could not marry without his consent until she reached her majority, and Fred was enjoying the privileges of this role immensely. There had been some young men in the Guards who had made Fred feel uncomfortable about his tailor or his taste in claret, but those feelings of unease had subsided now that he was the guardian of the Lennox fortune, and, of course, the fiancé of Lady Augusta Crewe.
It was not therefore the fear of being a wallflower that made Charlotte inch down the curving staircase after her brother, one reluctant step at a time. She was probably the only girl in London who dreaded a full dance card. Sitting out a dance was better than being whirled around the room by some pink-cheeked younger son doing his best to secure the Lennox Fortune. Did she hunt? No. Silence. Had she been presented? Not yet. Pause. Did she like croquet? Sometimes she would volunteer that she enjoyed photography. This would generally make Percy or Clarence look anxious, as if being asked a question in an exam that they hadn't prepped for. Then Algernon or Ralph would tell her the story of how he had his photograph taken, 'for Mamma, y'know', and complain about how long it had taken: 'The photographer chap wanted me to stand with my head in a vice, otherwise he said it would come out blurry.' Did they like the results? she would ask, and the young men would pause; sometimes a blush would stain their bewhiskered faces. Despite their confusion, she would persevere: did the photograph look the way they had imagined themselves? At that point her partner would mumble that he never really gave much thought to his appearance, but he supposed that the photographs were accurate enough. Generally after these exchanges the young man would not insist on another dance. Once when a more imaginative young man had asked Charlotte if she would take his photograph, she had demurred, saying that he might not like the result. He did not ask a second time.
At the bottom step Charlotte tried to arrange herself so that her fan and reticule covered the ink stain on her gown. But it was clear that her concern was unnecessary, for Aunt Adelaide was much too preoccupied with her own appearance to give much thought to her niece. She was standing in front of the pier glass in the hallway, turning her head this way and that as the light caught the Lennox diamonds around her throat. Married late to an impecunious baronet who had died six months later, Aunt Adelaide had not had many diamonds in her life and she was enjoying her borrowed finery to the full. Charlotte could see that her aunt, who must be at least forty, was a good deal more excited about the evening ahead than she was.
'How well those pearl earrings go with your dress, dear. Just the right note of ornament without ostentation. I can't bear it when young girls cover themselves with jewels – do you remember Selina Fortescue at the Londonderry ball? She looked positively gaudy, such a shame with a fresh young complexion like that.' Aunt Adelaide looked at Charlotte as she said this but couldn't resist her twinkling reflection for long and turned back to the mirror.
Fred coughed. 'I notice, Aunt, that, unlike Charlotte, you have covered yourself in jewels. Is it quite the thing for you to be wearin' the Lennox necklace? The diamonds are Charlotte's property after all, and I think that as her guardian I should have been consulted.'
Underneath the diamonds, Charlotte saw the skin of her aunt's décolletage redden. She spoke quickly.
'Oh Fred, don't be so pompous. I would feel ridiculous wearing the necklace. It's much too grown up for me, and besides, it looks very becoming on Aunt Adelaide. I would much rather she wore it than for it to be locked up in a vault.'
Aunt Adelaide looked at her gratefully. Fred picked up his gloves and started to pull them down over his fingers, cracking each knuckle as he did so.
'I don't think it is pompous to express some concern about a valuable piece of property that belongs to my only sister. Perhaps you have forgotten the promise I made to Father to look after you, but I haven't. Everything that you do reflects on me. I don't want your future husband to accuse me of mismanagin' your affairs.'
'Well, I have no intention of marrying someone who would complain about me lending a necklace to a member of my family. I was going to offer it to Augusta to wear at your wedding, but if you feel so strongly about it, perhaps that would be a mistake.'
As Charlotte had intended, Fred's indignation subsided.
'Augusta did mention the necklace to me. I will, of course, make sure that she takes very good care of it, as I am sure that you will, Aunt. Now I suggest that we leave, or we will miss the first act.'
Charlotte smiled to herself. Fred's real anxiety was not that Aunt Adelaide was wearing the Lennox diamonds, but that Augusta would see her wearing them at the Spencer ball. Augusta was already planning to wear them to her wedding, and she would be unhappy if their magnificence was diluted by too many public outings on other necks than hers.
As her brother handed her into the carriage, she wondered how she would compose their wedding portrait. There would be the official one, of course, with the bride in white and orange blossom with the diamond collar round her not-quite-long enough neck with Fred standing stiffly behind her – Augusta would be seated as she was practically the same height as Fred. But in the unofficial one Charlotte thought that Augusta, with her flattish nose and wide apart eyes, would make a rather satisfactory Pekinese, and Fred, with his red face and his burgeoning chins, might pass for a turkey. It would not be a picture that she could hang anywhere, of course, not even in the darkest corners of Kevill, but it would give her private satisfaction to look at it when she was being 'launched' by Augusta after the wedding. Unless she could find a husband in the run-up to their nuptials, she faced the prospect of living with the newlyweds. The current arrangement with Lady Lisle suited Fred while he was a bachelor, but when he was a married man he would naturally want his sister to live with him and his wife. Fred's £1,000 a year would not stretch to a house in town, but as Charlotte's guardian, he and Augusta would be able to take Lady Lisle's place as Charlotte's chaperone in Charles Street.
There was a tap at the carriage window. She looked out and saw the large, whiskered face of Captain 'Chicken' Hartopp, Fred's great friend and a devoted follower of the Lennox fortune. Fred was not actively encouraging Hartopp's suit, as he was hoping for a title for his sister, or at least an alliance with one of the older landed families, but as Hartopp's fortune was almost as great as Charlotte's he could not rule him out entirely.
'Miss Baird, I am so glad I caught you before you left. I wanted to give you these; I thought perhaps you might like to wear them tonight.'
He handed her a corsage of white rosebuds through the window and Charlotte gave him what she hoped was a delighted smile.
'Thank you so much, Captain Hartopp. How kind of you to think of me.'
'My pleasure, Miss Baird.' He tipped his hat to Fred and bowed to Aunt Adelaide. 'Good evening, Lady Lisle. What a magnificent necklace. Are those the famous Lennox diamonds, by any chance?'
Adelaide Lisle simpered. 'They are indeed. Dear Charlotte has been kind enough to let me wear them tonight. I hope I can do them justice.'
Hartopp paused just a second too long before saying, 'You can have no doubts on that score, Lady Lisle.'
Charlotte saw the way Hartopp's eyes glittered when he saw the necklace, and thought that even living with Fred and Augusta would be preferable to looking at his face every morning over the breakfast table. She had not yet acquired any photographs of aquatic mammals, but when she did, she was sure that Captain Hartopp, despite his feathery nickname, would make a perfectly splendid walrus.
A Night at the Opera
The opera house was full. It was Adelina Patti's last performance of La Sonnambula before she returned to New York. Every box was full, every seat from the stalls to the gods was taken. Bay Middleton sat in the second row, so close to the stage that he could see the lattice of blue veins that snaked across La Patti's décolletage, the rivulets of sweat that ran down her painted cheeks.
Excerpted from The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin. Copyright © 2014 Daisy Goodwin Productions. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
DAISY GOODWIN is a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University's film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University. She is also a book reviewer for London's The Times and was chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. The Fortune Hunter is Daisy's second novel, following the New York Times bestseller The American Heiress.
DAISY GOODWIN is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter. She attended Columbia University's film school as a Harkness scholar after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, and was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. She is the screenwriter and executive producer of the PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria. She lives in London.
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A Readable Guilty Pleasure But Disappointing. With the pre-publication hype and the author's reputation, I was surprised to find this really just a beach read wrapped up with a very high pedigree. While based on historical events surrounding the early lives of the Austrian Empress and Victorian socialites Charlotte Baird and Bay Middleton, I found much of this flat--and the Empress a largely one dimensional character. For supposedly being a major third of an overwrought love triangle, she ended up striking me as little more than a convenient obstacle to the Bay-Charlotte affair, to prove that rulers are often lonely as well as manipulative and to show Bay's womanizing manners are not entirely unlike the Empress' sometimes underhanded tactics. I left the book with no more feeling or understanding of her than I did at the start. Charlotte shows signs of spunk in her love of photography, feeling the burden of her inheritance and being under the thumb of her boorish brother plus the smothering expectations of Victorian England; her attraction to unsuitable Bay plays into that rebellion, but ultimately, Charlotte falls into the typical romantic heroine trap of being dumb in the wake of a handsome man. Bay is a cad I never warmed to; a lot of readers will argue that, and I can see where it's debatable, but for me, his character was clear early on; his later behavior solidified that conclusion for me, and I spent the rest of the novel hoping he'd get a comeuppance. Whether he does or not is also up for debate. I found the ending rushed, rather silly, and myself shrugging with the thought, "of course." Animal lovers--beware--while the fox hunting scenes are not horribly graphic, (but I found way too long), they are present and if, like me, you find blood sports repugnant--your mind won't be changed. The steeple-chasing sequence also reconfirmed my loathing of such 'sport.' Lovely cover, generally well written, but ultimately, I think I was looking for something more than the now horribly familiar 'Downton Abbey' (the cover actually looks a bit like Lady Mary come to think of it) re-imagining.
While I did enjoy Goodwin's The American Heiress, it was never at the top of my favorites. However, this book was by far better! You really become invested in the characters. I finished it in a day because I just could not put it down! If you enjoyed The American Heiress at all, you will LOVE this book!! I definitely recommend it!
Although this novel is classified as a biographical novel, I believe this is only partially true. Yes, Empress Cisi is one of several main characters, but the book is truly about a romance between the fictionalized characters, Captain Bay Middleton and Charlotte Biard. Cisi's life is only partially, and not thoroughly depicted. Having said this, I truly enjoyed this novel. It was well written, lush in its descriptions of the era as it pertained to surroundings, fashion, and glamour, and poignant enough to capture my interest until the very last page. The author did an excellent job of describing traditional fox hunts and equestrian skills. I especially enjoyed the quippy and comical interactions with Queen Victoria. Although I'm not sure that the story adheres to historical facts, it does not take away from the enjoyment of the novel. The story gains momentum as it nears a very satisfying ending.As long as readers are aware this isn't a true to form biographical novel about Empress Elisabeth, there is much to recommend this wonderful story.
The Fortune Hunter introduced a few historical characters that I was not too familiar with, Sisi (the Empress of Austria) especially. Sisi is known as the most beautiful woman in Europe, but she is miserable and lonely - which leads her to come to England to enjoy the hunting season. Sisi was quite the fascinating figure - at the same time very observant of protocol and traditions, but shunning them at the same time. She was obsessed with her looks and insisted on keeping people close that would ensure she had her way. This may sound like quite an unpleasant person, but when she was happy - the world seemed happy. Everyone around her would share in it. Charlotte and Bay are our other two main characters. Charlotte is the heiress to quite the fortune has several hunters out for her hand in marriage because of it. She is an avid photographer, and from the description and reactions in the book, she was quite skilled in the art as well. She, too, was an interesting contrast in characteristics, being both naive and world-wise at the same time. Her favored suitor Bay causes all sorts of trouble by catching the eye of the Empress. The Empress insists that he attend her at all times, and this drives a significant wedge between him and Charlotte. This wedge was something he would have to work quite hard at pulling out and regaining her trust and affection. I loved how Daisy Goodwin made her characters so life like. The nobles were quite full of themselves and their traditions and rules, while everyone else was tasked with making their lives easier. That was just the way of the world and you could really feel that on every page. There is a very strong romance that flows through the story, but it is not all happy endings for our three main characters. Having said that, the ending was very climatic and beautifully written. I was sure quite a few times that the worst was going to happen, but it realistically (yet miraculously) turned around and did something quite unexpected. *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*
The audio book was a let down for me. I just didn't care for the reader. I may just stick to books.
This was pretty good! I didn't actually realize that it was based on a true story and real people until I was about halfway through. I enjoy historical fiction and this book was very readable. There were three main characters, the Empress Elisabeth (aka “Sisi”), Bay Middleton, and Charlotte Baird. Sisi was obsessed with her looks, is one of the best female riders in the world, and is bent on having an affair with Bay (despite her Emperor husband Franz back in Hapsburg). Her beauty regimen includes sleeping with raw veal on her face. Surprisingly, she is still somewhat likable. Charlotte is heiress to a very large fortune (hence the title) and is constantly courted by opportunists. She is plain and clever, and is falling in love with Bay. Bay is courting Charlotte, and bedding Sisi at the same time. The story was very interesting, it held my attention well and was a quick read despite the length. Knowing that is based on actual events made me want to read more about the characters. As a horse lover, I especially enjoyed the horse scenes, particularly the Grand National steeplechase at the end, with Bay racing on his 15 hand mare Tipsy. However, none of the main characters were truly likable. Sisi and Bay were sorta likable in spite of their flaws—Sisi is arrogant, conceited, spoiled. Bay is kind of a bad guy for courting an innocent young girl while having an affair (although to be fair it's probably difficult to turn down an Empress no matter what your feelings are), and he seems also sort of spoiled and arrogant. Charlotte unfortunately seems a very simplistic character who has no depth to her and you never know enough about her to like her. There were some other minor characters who were great—Charlotte's friend Caspar from America was wonderful! Also Charlotte's brother Fred and his fiance were not likable but were fun to hate as the “bad guys”. I was intrigued enough to read more about Bay Middleton and about Sisi, so the book did inspire that. However it kind of fizzled out at the end and didn't really resolve everything, and I wasn't sure that I agreed with the decisions that the characters made. Overall a decent read, that made me want to learn more.
Just OK. A novel created around historical figures that falls flat. Was expecting more from this author & felt that there could have been a story of greater depth created than what was written. The initial premise of a rapscallion finally falling for a average-looking heiress for pure reasons draws you in and you wonder if he's genuinely in love with her as he infers, but there is much too little written about their courtship for them to be accepted as an engaged couple. An alternate title for this book could have been MUst Love Horses because those are the only readers that I envision enjoying the tedious descriptions of horse riding and fox hunts that makes up the majority of this book. And speaking of horses, the author beats a dead one in reiterating what a tremendous horsewoman the Empress of Austria is, to the point where you want to scream "She's a great horse rider. We get it already!!" At about page 200, you find yourself reading cheesy porn dialogue between Bay Middleton and the Empress that leaves you nauseated and questioning why you're still reading this book. There are many grammatical errors and typos in the Nook version of this book. The author's character portrayal of Charlotte Baird and Bay Middleton are weak, although the more enjoyable chapters are the ones from Charlotte's perspective. Bay ends up an unlikeable character and hard to believe. On one hand he has a strong moral character, on the other he has no problem cheating with married women, having children out of wedlock, professing love and loyalty to one person because he can see her true character and still sleep with another woman. It required discipline to continue reading this book but I will say that the plot and pace do get better in the last third of the book, which is the only reason I give this book a second star.
It started out good--was quite interesting--but then it started to drag towards the end. I skipped about 3 chapters, right to the last chapter, and didn't feel I'd missed a thing. I also wasn't sad when I had finished it. (Good, I can move on to something more interesting!)
What a fun read! This book really surprised me, even more than the American heiress did. Even though it involves historical people, they were all so vivid and likable in ms. Goodwin's hands. Like a real horse race, I found myself cheering for different riders and horses throughout the story. I can easily give this book a strong recommendation!
I love a good story spun around horses and fox hunting. I had to pace my reading so the story wouldn't end so soon. Even while reading slow, the story was over way too fast. I had the feeling of jumping the hedges and coops when the field was in hot pursuit. The detail was that in depth. If you love horses and love stories, you must read this book.
I enjoyed Daisy Goodwin's The American Heiress, so I thought I would go wth this. This was a really good book, and I had no idea I was reading about real people. I flew through this book and immediately had to google the actual people!
I absolutely loved this story! Goodwin did a wonderful job of making you feel happiness, sorrow, and hatred towards the main characters (except for Charlotte, whom you could not help but root for the entire time). I am sad I finished this story so quickly, as I greatly enjoyed every page.
I have ambivalent feelings about this book, based on real life historical figures. Daisy Goodwin writes a beautifully complex story in a clear, readable, and austere style that drew me right into the story. Expertly narrated by Clare Corbett, the lives of these three complex individuals are fascinating and engrossing and come alive. Captain Bay Middleton is an expert horseman who also has a weakness for women and forbidden affairs. What begins as a conquest and an exciting and illicit affair with the Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria eventually almost turns into one of captivity as he lives in fear of disobliging her. He covertly sends messages and will always be beneath her station despite their intimacy. Even as he embarks on his affair with Sisi, Bay remains very interested in Charlotte Baird, a young and intelligent heiress. He is attracted to her and seeks her good opinion, and makes efforts to stay in touch with her. It’s almost as if he doesn’t want to close off any of his options and desperately wants to be well-liked and well thought of by everyone he meets. He is likeable but weak, a bit like the rakish Henry Crawford in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I really liked Charlotte. Her strength and innocence, yet clever intuition and knowledge keep her head above water even as her heart breaks. Her charming and colorful American friend, Casper Hughes, helps ease her fears and bolsters her confidence as they prepare for the London photographic exhibition with her beloved and dynamic godmother, Lady Dunwoody. Clare Corbett reads Casper and Lady Dunwoody with verve; her reading of Casper, especially, made me smile. Their friendship is lovely and true. Too bad she couldn’t find a passionate happiness with him instead. Charlotte’s stuffy older brother, Fred, and his sniping fiancée, Augusta, are boors and brown nosers, desperate to keep their control over Charlotte and, thus, her fortune. They appear to be the real fortune hunters of this novel. Clare Corbett reads Augusta with a perfect high-pitched, shrill voice that grates on Charlotte’s (and the reader’s) nerves. The vivid descriptions of the sport of fox hunting, the culture of horsemanship, the new art of photography, the atmosphere of an upper class country house party, and the intricacies of diplomacy and etiquette with foreign dignitaries are brought to life. Historic figures of the time also make an appearance: Queen Victoria and her servant and companion, John Brown, and the Earl of Spencer. The question of an affair between Bay and Sisi is just that. Questionable. But history always mentions a “reputed” affair. Bay is a man to both like and dislike. He’s a man with flaws who loves women. Unfortunately, he hurts them as well with his lack of singular devotion. I was on edge the entire novel as I knew what was coming; I simultaneously looked forward to and dreaded it. Charlotte is an innocent, but she’s not stupid. I liked that Goodwin conveyed both her curiosity and her sensibility. Bay is the first man to capture her interest but she is determined to find her own happiness within the limits of her class and society. I admire her skill at photography and her loving relationship with her godmother; she has allies and friends. I got the feeling she would be just fine no matter what. Sisi is a tragic figure. Beautiful, lonely, and in a loveless marriage, she seeks happiness wherever she can take it. I felt sorry for her yet I also disliked her because I liked Charlotte more. This is why I am ambivalent about this story. Perhaps it is because I listened to the book read aloud and Sisi’s voice began to grate after awhile and her actions seem desperate. Bay is attracted to Sisi but he still wants Charlotte and this bothers me. I think the ending a little quick, romantic, and fanciful and I don’t think Charlotte could have been happy long-term with Bay. And that is perhaps the saddest thing of all. An exceptionally well written and entertaining novel.
The book is based on some historical facts. The book makes you want to find out more about the actual people who lived this story. Writing is excellent. Recommended to all who enjoy good historical fiction. Another excellent novel on the NOOK is The Partisan by William Jarvis. This historical novel is also based on actual events. It just won an Indie Medalian Award. Both books deserve A+++++++++
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A historical fiction set in England, but the royal monarchs do not take center stage and I liked it! Don't get me wrong, I love the crazy stories of the monarchs, but in this instance, I loved hearing about England with Queen Victoria just making a few appearances and life at court was just visited. Instead a family with a very young heiress who has lost both her parents and is having her older brother controlling her state of affairs and a lowly Captain trying to win her affections while being distracted by the Empress of Austria - it was great. With quite a hefty page count, don't let that fool you with this book. I absolutely whizzed through this story at an alarming pace and was completely engrossed in this story quickly. I loved the young heiress who will eventually have wealth to her name, but at the time she can't access any of it and she watches her brother and soon to be sister-in-law enjoy living off her and this Captain who actually cares for her and not the money that she has coming to her. It was a sweet love story with some fantastic twists and turns.
A little too cheesy love story for me
Interesting, sometimes people moved in and out with seems to be no true purpose. Meant more to me and was eaiser to understand after I had looked up main characters to get their backgrounds.
Daisy Goodwin has only just begun writing books and I can hardly wait for the 3rd!!!